Contributed by Dan Rubin, Capt.*
A long time ago there were two fleabag hotels, the Lincoln and the Jefferson, at the corner of 15th and California Streets in downtown Denver. They were across the street from what was then the Denver Dry Goods Company. The Jefferson was actually above the Lincoln, so that when you entered the Jefferson the first thing you had to do was climb a long flight of stairs to the third floor of the building. I was called to this hotel on a complaint that someone was threatening the manager. When I got to the top of the stairs it was easy for me to find the right room. There was yelling, and the walls were paper-thin. When I entered the room I found a man who was a lot bigger than I was, nose-to-nose with a man who was much smaller than I was. Both turned to look at me. The big man looked annoyed to see me, and the small man looked relieved, so it was pretty obvious who was who. Immediately, the big one started in on me, but I said, "Hey, don't tell me, tell him!" His attention turned back to the manager, who suddenly didn't seem so relieved.
It soon became clear that the big man, a transient, had been staying at the hotel but had run out of money. Now the manager wanted him out. The transient was angrily listing reasons why this wasn't fair, but the nervous manager was not backing down. When the transient ran out of arguments, I spoke up and offered an additional reason why he should be allowed to stay, one he hadn't thought of. "Yeah, that's right!" he yelled at the manager, who now was sorry he had called the police. The transient, too, was surprised by my assistance, and suddenly seemed unsure of himself.
"But you know, " I said to the transient, "the manager really has no choice. He doesn't own the hotel. He'll lose his job if he lets people stay here who don't pay." "Yeah," he replied. "I know."
We spoke a little more. Now that the transient had turned his attention to me, the manager looked a lot better. I asked the man if he had a place to go, or if I could help him find one. Pretty soon he decided that he did have someplace to go (under a bridge, probably), and we walked down the long flight of stairs together. Just as we reached the sidewalk another officer, my backup, arrived. His eyes got wide as he saw how big this guy was. The transient and I shook hands, and off he went.
I always think of this little episode whenever someone asks me if I've ever used aikido in my work. In this instance I never touched the guy, but when he came at me I did not meet his force with force. Instead, I redirected it ("don't tell me, tell him"). By letting him continue to yell at the manager, I let his force dissipate harmlessly. I even "extended" him, by coming up with an additional argument when he began to falter. This took his balance, and as he tried to recover I turned him in the direction that I wanted him to go, which was down the stairs and out the door. The situation had been resolved without anyone (especially me) getting hurt. And harmony had returned to the universe that was the Hotel Jefferson.
Some people might say that I hadn't used aikido at all - I just let the guy vent, or I used pop psychology, or verbal judo, or the golden rule, or even transactional analysis. And they would be right. It's up to each of us to frame our behavior, our martial art, in a way that makes sense to us. To me, I had used aikido. And since I've never forgotten it, I must have been pretty proud of myself.
*Dan Rubin, is a Captain and 28-year veteran of the Denver Police Department, Denver, CO, USA. He began his aikido training at the Rocky Mountain Ki Society and has been a member of Boulder Aikikai since 1996.